Friday, October 19, 2007

Charleigh's Lifebook

So thanks to my dear friend Elizabeth, who regularly "borrows" Charleigh to help cheer up her son, who's big sister has gone to school, I did indeed accomplish something yesterday. In fact, this is a project that has been hanging over my head for over three years!

Yesterday, I was finally able to put Charleigh's lifebook together. What is a lifebook you ask? I learned about lifebooks at a seminar Donna dragged me to...thank goodness. It is a book of information that tells your adopted child about their life BEFORE they came to your family. Most typical baby-books are not very adoption friendly and in fact, can highlight a lot of painful stuff. A lifebook, on the other hand, is a combination of documentation of the things you may forget but your child will want to know. I wrote the body of the book when the details were still pretty fresh in my mind, but not so fresh that I was still angry about them. (When you foster to adopt, there are things that tick you off). Putting it all together can be daunting because you want to be open and honest, but not overwhelm the kid with the information. This lifebook will be suitable for Charleigh for her childhood. When she is nearly an adult, I will likely put together a more detailed, adult-type book with all the info I have collected.

While I did utilize many scrapbook type techniques, this is not the kind of album you leave on your coffee table and let anyone read. It belongs to your child and they have the rights to it, to show it off, or keep it to themselves.

It is also the tool you utilize to have conversations right from the beginning. It could never be a secret that Charleigh is adopted (although you should see the looks I get sometimes when I am out alone with her...prejudice is alive and well in NWA). Her lifebook is a way to start those conversations and have them regularly and naturally as her questions develop.

So obviously, I can't really show off my work to everyone, but I'm pretty thrilled with it, so that's why I'm posting about it instead. I went through it with her last night for the first time, and she wanted to sleep with it...I'd call that successful!

I know, Donna, you are going to say that I need to photo-copy the pages...I'm on it!


tammi said...

Awesome idea.

I know the feeling of looking through those traditional baby books and seeing a lot of blanks.
What a great mom you are, to be sensitive to her need to know'll be important to her in developing her identity. Kudos to you! what a special thing...i want more details!
what did you use to make it? A scrapbook, a journal? are there pictures in it, or is it just words? did you write it by hand or type it out??
Sorry for being nosy...i just think it's a great idea and I'd love to hear more about it.

JudyL said...

What a great idea and if she wanted to sleep with it, I'd say it is definitely a great success.

klasieprof said...


to answer ONE question people may have as to the photo get MAD and rip up the pages the best thing to do is PHOTOCOPY it a couple times put those sheets in sheet protectors, and THAT is the book that you use with the kid.
a LIFE book, has pictures (if you have them) a list of schools the child may have attended with teacher names, copies of the country if it was a forign adoption, some names (I really try NOT to put all info in the book as kids don't NEED to know their entire mom's name---do you WANT them to find their drug addicted or whatever Mom?, Pictures of Social workers, the buildings of the town they were adopted in, the Judge, Memories of their first days...."This Baby is SOOO GOOOD she just wants to set in front of the TV...then (a week later after you have taught her you will respond to her needs)...THIS BABY won't quit CRYING!!, lists of what the baby / child showed up with, do you know of any siblings??, etc etc. Some do it Typewritten, some do it FANCY SMANCY,'s SOMEWHERE.
It's very personal...and sometimes..just not really happy.
Every adoption is another family that was broken for it to occur. Not a Horrible thing...just a thing. In this case, WE ARE THRILLED. Sorry for the long post, I'm out of State and on a friend's laptop.
If anyone Cares...I was at the HISTORIC South Carolina CLEMSON Game with CENTRAL MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY....Central had fourteen points at the HALF!!! Yah!! Oh...but...Clemson won SEVENTY to 14. ooooooooooohhhhhhhhh

ness said...

Hey Tammi...i love hearing your perspective on this and the questions you raise. It really helps me to think things I might not guess about Charleigh's questions.

I used a small scrapbook..i wasn't excited about trying to fill 12x12 pages. I used kid friendly stickers because I don't have many pictures. I wish I had been bold enough to ask for her birthmom's pic when I met her, but I wasn't as assertive then as I am now. I did use a lot of words at first, but then I cut them back to small, almost graphic type wording using powerpoint. Each page has a theme...what is a social worker? Why did my birthparent's not keep me? What does adoption mean? Where was I before I came to live with you? FWhere did my birthparents come from? Who are my birth siblings? This was also an easy way to plant the idea that all Christians are adopted into God's family. I also included a list of famous people that were adopted. Donna's right, is not always a happy story so I didn't try to make it that way; it is very matter of fact, even. Even the adoption day page is not highly decorated and celebratory because adoption means loss as much as it means gain, especially in the fostering realm. I'm not sure wher to keep it at this point because I'm not sure I want her to have total access to it all the time, and I have limited the other kids since they can read, from total access as well.

I believe there are websites devoted to these kinds of books, but like I said, I learned about it at a seminar and it was super helpful.

tammi said...


Candice said...

Ness, as a former CASA I just feel like your heart is so huge, what an undertaking for ANY mom! You rock, and that girl is so loved it's nuts!
Arlo has said three other times since Sunday, very solemnly, "Arlo loves Charleigh."
She is blessed!

stephanie garcia said...

We were introduced to the idea of lifebooks through an adoptive parent seminar last year, and it is on my to-do list ... Thank you for all the specific suggestions of do's and don'ts, they are great!

stephanie garcia said...

Ummm, I just realized that when I commented on here last, I didn't realize whose blog I was commenting on! I feel very silly ... but it is so nice to know it is yours, Vanessa. Now I want to know all about your adoption journey! (:

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